Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving reflections...

Thanksgiving in Morocco isn't really the same as it has been in the States alongside our families. Cut and dry: this culture isn't the same as American culture, and doesn't include the specific rules, behaviors, and tendencies of American holidays. Because of our culture's absence, we have to re-create Thanksgiving. However, for many reasons, it fell short of our expectations. Mainly, there wasn't the social chaos/flux that exists in most families' holiday get-togethers:

1) No dogs/cell phones/televisions/other non-human things barking/freaking out/demanding attention, etc.
2) No distracted conversations (half conversations, really), where people really can't take the time to pay 100% attention to you because there's so much else going on around them (this is unfortunate because I feel like most substantive conversations and communication requires most of our attention...if we can't give this level of attention, we're not even really making novel communication with others...just regurgitating memorized, routine pleasantries!).
3) No traveling on the road to a dozen different places to visit all of our family (because everyone lives far away, or people, for some reason, don't want to meet together, perhaps because family members are estranged from one another).

DIGRESSION ON CONVERSATIONAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN AMERICANS AND MOROCCANS: Here in Morocco, it seems people are more concerned with your present condition. They ask you relentlessly how you are NOW, without much concern with the future. Unlike America, very few people here in Morocco ask us "What are you going to do after this or after that (for all of us who are trying to figure our futures out for ourselves, and don't readily have the answers to these pressing questions, the prospect of being in such an "inquisition" is very frustrating, to say the least! Maybe in response to these questions from Americans, I'll just say "I will be doing whatever God wills me to do"). I guess Americans seem to think they have more control over the future than they actually do, so maybe that leads them to dwell on it more than the average Moroccan. I know I'm always thinking of the future, possibly even more than the present. I guess for anyone who knows me, I can appear "spaced" sometimes. It's likely because I'm thinking about what I will be doing later that day/week/year/decade/etc...

In America, since the individual is given more importance, it seems like family is given less priority. We spread out, seeking our own individualistic fortunes in lands far away from our home (i.e. Peace Corps in Morocco). Also, in our egoistic manner, we have a tendency to get annoyed with the deeply rooted behaviors, beliefs, and characteristics of certain family members. This, of course, leads to us seeing our families much less often than Moroccans see their families. Sometimes, we see certain family members only at major holidays, and only out of a sense of obligation!

Gee, I haven't really painted a good picture for American familial social dynamics! More on this later, now we're on to the food!

For this Thanksgiving, we had chicken instead of turkey. This might be a major offense to some die-hard American traditionalists, but I found that this substitution was of minor consequence. Indeed, it had much of the same texture and flavor of turkey, and served it's purpose quite well. The mashed potatoes were great, as always, being lovingly whipped by Emily just prior to being served. I have to say, despite the fact that we didn't use celery or any other herbs, the home-made stuffing was excellent (and surprisingly easy)! Broth, butter, onion, garlic, salt and pepper was mixed with croutons and heated on the I said, easier than I ever thought it could be. The cranberry sauce was probably the key ingredient that tied everything together for me (quite literally, I love mixing the sauce individually with potatoes, stuffing, and turkey...I love the sweet/tartness that it imparts upon the other foods). We brought it from the States, as I'm not sure you'd be able to find canned cranberry sauce/dressing here in Morocco. Emily slaved for 3 hours to make an AMAZING carrot cake with a creamcheese/lime zest frosting (delicious for breakfast in addition to an after-dinner dessert)! We'll still be enjoying that for at least 2 more meals!

As far as the food goes, I don't think we were off by that much. We didn't have turkey, or turkey gravy for that matter. We also were lacking pumpkin pie, but despite these deficiencies, I feel like we re-created the food experience to about 80-85% accuracy.

Sharing a holiday with people outside of your culture is a great way of letting people in on the culture of a group, however, it is no substitute for the authentic experience. The lack of our families - despite all of the difficulties we sometimes have with them - is what we truly miss. Family takes us back to our youth, when we were nurtured, guarded, when the world was a warmer, cozier, simpler place. We didn't have complex life situations then, and we were naive to many of the difficulties of adult life. We just knew that adults were in charge and could take care of anything. Holidays are a step backward to those better times, and it allows our memories of youth - and therefore our own youth - to live on.

I can't wait until next year's Thanksgiving when we'll be frustratingly trying to explain our future plans to our relatives, who won't be listening fully because of attention-diverting dogs/cellphones/televisions/people in the background! The flavors and smells of the food will take us back to simpler times with these people that we call family and we can be truly thankful of having them close in our lives.

(sappy, I know...but giving thanks can be that way kinda goes along with the holiday)


Emily enjoyed a mushy, conglomeration of leftovers just this past hour. In her own words, "Amalgulous (?) mound of marvelous deliciousness."

1 comment:

Nancy said...

Jon, I think I might agree with some of your perceptions of the social implications of family and the Thanksgiving feast, and yet would also have to take exception to it also. I'm disagreeable that way, and I like to debate, o.k, argue. Be that as it may we all missed you guys for the traditional holiday, as we will for Christmas. I missed playing games with you guys, and yes, you really can't duplicate the chaos when everyone is talking, barking,, and complaining or explaining at the same time.
Love, Mom.